Capitalism in space: Using its Soyuz-2 rocket and Soyuz capsule, Russia today successfully launched two tourists to ISS.
Onboard the Soyuz is Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire known for starting online businesses Start Today and Zozo. In addition to his Soyuz mission, he has a circumlunar flight aboard SpaceX’s Starship—called “dearMoon”—booked for no earlier than 2023. Maezawa purchased both available seats on this flight of Soyuz. He [is] joined by Yozo Hirano—a media producer from Zozo—who will document the MS-20 mission. This flight will mark the first time two Japanese astronauts fly together, as well as the first flight of any Japanese space tourist.
The mission is commanded by experienced Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, on what is his third spaceflight. During the mission, he will stand ready to pilot the Soyuz in case the automated guidance software fails.
The Russians claim that this is their first tourist flight to ISS since 2009, but that makes believe the two filmmakers launched to ISS in October were not paying passengers. They might have been working on ISS, and not merely tourists, but they were not professional astronauts but paying customers.
This flight however is the first organized with Russia by the American company Space Adventures since 2009, ending that long gap caused almost entirely because all Soyuz seats since then had been bought by NASA to replace the shuttle. With manned Dragon flights available, the Russians and Space Adventures can sell tickets again.
The leaders in the 2021 launch race:
6 Europe (Arianespace)
China still leads the U.S. 46 to 43 in the national rankings. With SpaceX and Rocket Lab launches set for later tonight, these numbers should rise again.
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